Thedeath toll from the killer earthquake on Sakhalin continues to risewith most Russian officials now saying it will exceed 2,000, Itar-Tassreported May 30. OMON troops have sealed off the area around Neftegorskto prevent looting, Moscow radio reported. The enormous distances thatassistance workers must travel–Sakhalin is eight time zones fromMoscow–prompted a number of Asian countries–including Japan–to offerassistance. But on May 31 President Yeltsin rejected these offers andsuggested that Tokyo would exploit any assistance to press Moscow toreturn the disputed Kurile islands, Itar-Tass reported. As before,Russian officials have continued to blame Soviet-era shoddyconstruction for the tragedy, but recent budget cutbacks also hurt.Itar-Tass said that budget shortfalls mean that 11 of the 28 seismicmonitoring stations in Kamchatka were not working when the quake hit.Lest the earthquake have political reverberations, Russian primeminister Viktor Chernomyrdin cut short his vacation to head thecommission on quake relief.
Lebed Submits His Resignation.